Discover how you can make your giving pages even better for conversions by setting up pre-filled forms on your donation pages with RaiseDonors!

Before we get to the tech, let’s start with the philosophy.

Raising donors is different than raising money.

Of course, by raising donors you will also raise money for your organization.

But there are key differences between the two in their basic assumptions and objectives.

Raising DonorsRaising Money
The objective is to cultivate relationships. The objective is to complete a transaction.
Donors are primarily differentiated by their philanthropic desires and motivations.Donors are primarily differentiated by their giving capacity.
The feeling the donor has about their experience with us is most important.The gift the donor gave to us at the end of their experience is most important.
Since relationships are built on trust, transparency is a key strategy.Transparency leads to objections to giving, so it should be limited or avoided.
Donor experience is an investment.Donor experience is a cost.
“Donor Lifetime Value” is the key metric.“Last Amount Given” is the key metric.

Delighting donors

A key component to raising donors is to make every step of their interaction with your organization an absolute delight.

If “delight” feels like too strong a word, think of it this way:

  • Make your donor’s interaction with you as seamless and intuitive as possible.
  • In the donor-focused way of thinking, we perceive donors as people who want to be generous and are open to supporting the causes they care about.
  • They don’t need someone to guilt them into donating or wowed by an organization’s achievements, they need to be motivated to action by seeing value in taking the next step.

So if this is all true… then why is fundraising so hard sometimes? Why don’t donors always give or give at the level that we know they’re capable of?

In one word: Friction.

Eliminating friction in the donor journey

There are many ways donors encounter friction in the donor cycle.

Of course, there are many areas of friction we could address, but in this article we’ll focus on two specific areas that I see a lot.

The first area of friction I see that keeps donors from giving is messaging.

Nonprofit websites are often full of information that misses the opportunity to guide and motivate donors to make an informed, charitable donation.

Don’t get me wrong… it’s often very useful information!

Most often, you’ll see things like…

  • How an organization got started,
  • How many locations they operate in,
  • How they figured out the answer to the problem they’re trying to solve,
  • A bevy of stats around financial efficiency

Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter how accurate your stats are or how compelling your program info is.

If your messaging doesn’t answer the key questions your donors are asking, then facts and stats will confuse them rather than motivate them to give.

This is friction.

As amazing as the work an organization may be involved in, donors aren’t necessarily looking to find out what the organization is doing.

Donors come to find out what they can do about the problems they worry about.

To raise donors, your messaging needs to answer the questions that matter most to your donor:

  • How does the problem relate to me and the things I care about in my world?
  • What can I do about the problem? Or, how does my gift make any difference?
  • If I am your ideal donor, why should I give to you rather than some other organization, or no one at all?

When you answer these questions, you build trust and remove friction. And one of the essential tools at your disposal is your value proposition.

The value proposition is the essence of your mission. Your email campaigns, your website, and your donation pages are simply a means of communicating this essence.

And so when you communicate, it’s not about being persuasive — it’s about being clear. When you have a good value proposition, clarity is persuasion.

Technology friction

There is another type of friction that could be holding your fundraising efforts back.

Let’s say you’ve got a highly motivated donor, and they’re convinced that you’re the organization they should give to.

And let’s say that you’re putting on a 5K to raise money for your cause.

Your donor clicks on the button that says “Sponsor a Runner,” knowing that sponsoring a runner will be $50.

But when they land on your donation page, they encounter an empty form. Nothing is pre-selected or pre-filled for them.

On top of that, the page is one part donation form, one part interrogation. To give, your donor is being asked…

  • Re-state how much they’re giving,
  • Decide if they wish to give a one-time, recurring, or pledge,
  • Specify which fund/runner they wish to donate to,
  • Do they want to dedicate their gift to someone,
  • Do they want an employer match,
  • Input their contact information,
  • Do they want this to remain anonymous,
  • Select if they want to give by credit card, check, bitcoin, or messenger pigeon,
  • Insert their payment information,
  • Checkboxes for ongoing communications from your organization,
  • Tell you how they heard about the event,
  • Confirm they aren’t a sentient robot, and
  • Anything else you’re asking of them.

That’s friction!

But when you pair a strong value proposition and minimize friction in your process, you are creating an environment where you are clearing the way for your donor to continue to say “yes” every step of the way.

RaiseDonors pre-filled donation forms

This is where RaiseDonors pre-filled forms using URL parameters come in handy.

They make giving to your organization a delight by reducing the friction of having to fill out an empty form.

In the example above, the pre-filled form could have the fund, gift amount, recurring giving option, and newsletter options already pre-filled. (Side note: consider minimizing the number of items you are asking for and reducing length friction.)

And if you’re emailing a donor and already know who they are, you can also pre-fill the donor’s contact information.

Think about it: the only thing left for the donor to do is enter their payment information.

Internally, pre-filled forms make your work a whole lot easier and your data much more accurate too.

Using a pre-filled form through URL parameters, your team can also customize the backend settings of a page.

You can overwrite the default values for attribution codes, fund codes, recurring settings, etc.—which means you don’t have to create duplicate pages for small changes.

Your team can customize the pre-selected amount on the donation page when it loads — or pre-fill a text box.

This is great if you know the giving capacity of the donor, because you can customize the giving thresholds per donor!

A new approach to fundraising and tech

The world of philanthropy is changing.

Mounting economic, social, and technological pressures are causing nonprofit organizations like yours to adapt to new norms and challenges.

We all need a new way to approach fundraising — and with it, a new approach to technology.

Instead of raising money, let’s change our philosophy, methods, and technology to raise donors.

If you and I can do that, the money will take care of itself.

Stephen Boudreau serves as VP of Brand & Community at Virtuous Software. For over two decades, he has helped nonprofits leverage the digital space to grow their impact. To that end, Stephen co-founded RaiseDonors, a platform that provides nonprofits with technology and experiences that remove barriers to successful online fundraising. He is an avid (but aging) soccer player, audiobook enthusiast, and the heavily-disputed UNO champion of his household.

Copyright ©2024 Stephen Boudreau.